A couple of our past trips helped us decide to go on our Thanksgiving weekend hiking trip. The first was our Frontenac Park canoe trip. The route that we had taken was a lot more portaging and than paddling – except for the last day which was from one end of Big Salmon Lake to the other. This made us think that Frontenac Park would be a great choice for a hiking trip. Secondly, (except for the hordes of bugs) we really enjoyed our hike into our backcountry site in Bon Echo. It was challenging but very rewarding. Lastly, that time of year is always so colourful and beautiful. So, we decided that over the Thanksgiving long weekend, we would go on a hiking trip in Frontenac Provincial Park.
On Friday, we took part of the afternoon off work. We hoped to be at the site before dark but when we actually began our trek from the Big Salmon Lake parking lot to site 3-D, the sun was setting. After about 10 minutes into the hike, we pulled out our headlamps. 10 minutes later, we were in total darkness and we were struggling to stay on the trail. The only thing that was keeping us on track was trail markers – they were a Godsend!
When we finally arrived at the site, we quickly set up our tents and began warming up our Thanksgiving feast. My wife and I warmed up our turkey and stuffing that we prepared on Thursday (we kept the bones at home so that no animals would choke on splintered bones) and the others made potatoes and veggies. Jon brought a pie for dessert (he had fun carrying from the parking lot). It was a great dinner – we were stuffed.
Saturday morning we took our time eating breakfast so we had to try to pack up kind of quickly so that we could hit the trail. I restuffed my stuff-sac and put it down while I went to pack up my tent. I heard a noise behind me, so I turned around. My stuff-sac was barrelling down the hill towards the lake. I gave chase but I was too slow – splash! (Word of advice, never go cheap on your stuff-sac). Everything was soaked. Even after wringing everything out, the stuff-sac still weighed around 20 lbs. This may not be a lot but when you’re hiking for five or six hours, it’s definitely noticeable.
When my stuff-sac hit the water, the momentum that it gained from rolling down the hill carried it out of arms reach. So, Newman (The boxer) jumped into the water and was trying to paw my stuff-sac back to shore – this was incredible to see. Unfortunately, the weight of the bag and it being round proved to be too difficult – Though he did put in a very noble effort. So, as I was standing there dumbfounded, Ron stripped down to his boxers, jumped into the water and saved my bag. The whole scene was just like something you’d see in a bad comedy and the people who were on the neighbouring campsite couldn’t stop laughing – not that I could blame them as looking back, neither can I.
Eventually, we did hit the trail and they were pretty easy conditions – not too many rocks or roots. There were some hills and narrow paths but most of the time it was pretty easy going.
We stopped for lunch on one of the Lynch Lake camp sites (cluster 12). They were nice sites, big, with a great view of the lake, they weren’t too close together and there were rock walls that kind of created a natural privacy fence between the sites.
As we were getting ready to leave, we were approached by an older man. He said that he had camped there the previous weekend. He said that he came back in the hopes of finding his dentures because new ones are expensive. Unfortunately, we didn’t see them – I can only imagine a turtle walking around with a huge smile and showing his pearly whites.
So, on we went, heading towards site 11-A, which would be our camp for the night. This section we found to be quite a bit more challenging. There were a lot of rocks, narrow sections (kind of like narrow dikes) with very steep hills on either side. There were also a few spots where we had to climb up or down 3 – 4 foot ledges.
We reached our site and what a site it was. It was huge and at least 100m from B, C and D. The only downside to the site is that the outhouse and lake are a bit of a walk but that’s not really an issue. After we set up camp, I set up a clothesline and hung up as many things as possible – in the hopes that something would dry. Nothing was drying so I placed camping chairs by the fire and hung some clothes on the backs of them and any free time that I had, I spent standing by the fire holding socks and underwear. Thankfully, I had a pair of dry/clean underwear and socks for bed.
Sunday morning we loaded up our equipment, looked at the map (thought it would be a short an easy day) and hit the trail.
We hiked for about 1.5 hours – was mostly flat and easy. Then we stopped for lunch on a big hill that overlooked the multi-coloured treetops and a lake. The view was amazing.
Then we continued on our way. My wife and I were enjoying the views, while the other two in our party took off. They were out of site within minutes. The terrain after lunch changed a lot. It started out flat and easy, then it became quite damp and mushy, then rugged and rocky, then we had to cross little streams. It was fun but quite challenging.
Eventually we came across a lookout that overlooked Birch Lake (I think). It wasn’t on the map so I’m not exactly sure. It was a nice view. You could see the whole lake.
After about 2 hours of hiking, Margarita and I were starting to wonder if we had somehow passed campsite #7. We continued for about another half hour and stopped for about 15 minutes to examine the map and to hopefully figure out how much further we had to go. We weren’t tired or anything but we thought that we should’ve arrived at the site. We decided to continue in the hopes that our companions would at least be waiting somewhere for us. After about 50 metres from where we were standing, we saw the sign for site #7 (behind a tree). After about 5 more minutes of walking, we arrived at the site.
Our site (7-A) was a decent site. However, I would recommend B, C or D over A. A didn’t have water access and the ground was pretty rugged. Plus, A, B and C were all pretty close to each other, which can be good if you’re travelling with others. The other downside to all of the sites was that there was no firewood. We found enough to manage for the night but we probably spent about an hour looking for it.
Monday morning hit the trail early to head back to the Big Salmon Lake parking lot. The hike back was awesome. It was a pretty easy hike. There were some easy hills and bridges and we passed some dams but other than that it was a pretty easy hike back to the parking lot. However, the last 1.5 km back to the parking lot, was pretty boring.
With the exception of the stuff-sac incident, this trip was perfect. The temperature was great, the colours were beautiful and I had a great time. I would recommend Frontenac Park to everyone. Whether you are new to hiking or canoeing or you’re an experienced outdoorsman, it has something for everyone.